Vaccine costs emerge as roadblock to coronavirus funding deal

Vaccine affordability has emerged as a final roadblock to getting a deal on billions in funding to combat the coronavirus.

Negotiators in Congress are hoping to unveil a funding deal soon, but as of early Tuesday evening,  lawmakers and top staff were haggling over the final sticking points.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden's Supreme Court commission ends not with a bang but a whimper Hispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act MORE (D-N.Y.) said the cost of a vaccine was "one of the arguments that's still being disputed."

"We want to make sure — you know, we want to make sure that it either, with the vaccine, that no one, no one, whatever their income, avoids getting the vaccine because they can't afford it," Schumer said.


Democrats are pushing to include cost controls on vaccines or testing kits developed in response to the coronavirus as they prepare to sign off on billions of new funding.

"We are still negotiating a few outstanding items, particularly around the affordability of vaccines and therapeutics developed under this bill. We expect the supplemental to include massive public investment in the development of vaccines and treatments, and it is imperative that Americans are not gouged for the very drugs their tax dollars paid to develop," a House Democratic aide said.

Republicans say the forthcoming bill will include a "substantial" amount of money toward developing a vaccine, which government health care experts say is between a year and 18 months away.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHartzler pulls in 6,000 for Missouri Senate bid with .65M on hand McConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Mo.), a member of leadership and the Senate Appropriations Committee, called the fight over vaccinations a "made-up issue, frankly."

"I don't think there's ever been a vaccine developed for a pandemic that people didn't have easy access to," Blunt said. "I just think it's an issue that maybe fits into the current political discussion but has no reality to what would happen if you have a pandemic and you develop a vaccine specifically for that."


And Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Senate Democrats unveil remaining spending bills, teeing up clash with Republicans Democratic appropriations bills would increase environmental funding by B MORE (R-Ala.) had indicated that he didn't want Americans to be denied a vaccine because of financial costs, telling reporters on Monday night that "I don't think any American should be denied access to medicine."

Lawmakers have been locked in days of negotiations as they try to finalize the deal on emergency coronavirus funding. Nine individuals, all in Washington state, have now died from the virus, and there are growing concerns about a widespread outbreak within the United States.

Two sources familiar with the negotiations told The Hill on Monday that they were looking at providing $7.5 billion to combat the virus, though that figure wasn't locked in. That's approximately triple the $2.5 billion initially requested by the White House.

The House hopes to vote as soon as Wednesday on the coronavirus bill, though House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTechnology 'antitrust' legislation could slow product innovation, hurt the digital economy Hoyer signals House vote on bill to 'remove' debt limit threat Feehery: Build back bipartisan MORE (D-Md.) noted it could slip until Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Treasury to use extraordinary measures despite debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ky.), meanwhile, noted that "with cooperation" the Senate could vote before leaving town, likely on Thursday afternoon.